The taut intelligence of The Social Network
's mix of competition, technology, and betrayal extends all the way to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score. Artful sound design and textural interplay are dead giveaways that Reznor had a hand in this music, as are the carefully chosen motifs: spectral pianos pass through icy and brittle electronics and brush up against corrosive electric guitars. Reznor has been working with sounds like these for years, and with particular precision on later Nine Inch Nails
albums like Year Zero
. However, he and Ross use them with remarkable flexibility here, conveying apprehension and vulnerability on "Hand Covers Bruise"'s tentative melody, and almost sinister determination on "Eventually We Find Our Way"'s glowering tones. Reznor and Ross explore this divide between technology and all-too-human fragility throughout the score via caustic pieces like "A Familiar Taste" and "Carbon Prevails" and reflective ones such as the lovely "Painted Sun in Abstract." The most abstract tracks feel like they were written by and for machines: "3:14 Every Night" finds Ross and Reznor crafting an entirely different kind of industrial music than what Reznor is usually associated with; it hums like a generator as electronics scuttle and strings shriek. Most exciting, though, are The Social Network
's longest pieces, which play like an extended suite. "In Motion," "Intriguing Possibilities," and "The Gentle Hum of Anxiety" -- which could be an alternate title for the whole score -- are atmospheric but percolate with electronic sounds that suggest synapses firing and technology acting of its own accord. Throughout it all, there's a certain distance that reflects the virtual intimacy The Social Network
comments on, coupled with an unease that comes to the fore on "Almost Home" and "Soft Trees Break the Fall." Cerebral but with a very real emotional undercurrent, Ross and Reznor's score is perfect for a David Fincher film. While The Social Network
may not be as iconic as the Dust Brothers' score for Fincher's Fight Club
, it's as impressive and listenable in its own way. Reznor fans and film score aficionados will find a lot to like here.